Boy Beaten by Plantation Staff Sent to Vietnam for Treatment

A 14-year-old boy severely beaten by employees of a well-connected rubber plantation company in Ratanakkiri province on Saturday was sent to Vietnam for treatment for a life-threatening blood clot in his brain on Monday, according to his father, while a soldier detained in connection to the incident was released.

Ry Soklim, 14, was among four villagers in Andong Meas district beaten with wooden and steel poles by employees of DM Group while trying to prevent them from clearing land that had recently been awarded to his family by student volunteers working under the nationwide land-titling program, according to court officials and the boy’s father, Ry Saron.

Mr. Saron said his son, accompanied by his wife, was driven to Vietnam on Sunday, where doctors said they needed to operate to clear the blood clot.

“My wife telephoned me this evening and said the doctors need money for the operation soon because my son will die if they keep him for much longer,” he said Monday.

He said the doctors were asking for $1,800 and that he would put up his new land title as collateral in the hopes of securing a loan to cover the cost.

Mr. Saron said his older son, Ry Sokleap, 21, was also being treated for head injuries and a broken arm at a health clinic in O’Yadaw district. His 12-year-old daughter, Ry Sreypich, and a 21-year-old neighbor were also hospitalized for injuries they sustained in the attack but have since been released and returned home, he added.

According to Mr. Saron, a lone-armed soldier at the scene of the incident on Saturday had threatened to shoot anyone who interfered with the clearing of his land. Mr. Saron said he left to get help, during which time his family was attacked by the DM Group staff.

Four of the workers were ar­rested immediately after the attack and have been charged with intentional violence. Au­thorities also detained a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) soldier, Colonel Srey Thoeun, 39, for questioning on the matter.

A villager who witnessed both the threat and the attack corroborated the account Monday.

“I saw more than 30 workers and a soldier and two bulldozers clearing Saron’s land and all of us told them to wait for the land owner [Mr. Saron] to come back, but they did not listen to us and hit the villagers with steel bars and wooden sticks,” said Var Rady.

“The soldier did not join the fight, but he just looked and laughed and screamed,” Mr. Rady said.

Provincial court deputy prosecutor Ros Saram said they released Col. Thoeun after questioning him Monday because he did not attack the victims and because he had permission from his commanders in RCAF Di­vision 2, Battalion 21, to travel in the province at the service of businessman Sum Samnang.

“We did not charge him and we released him because his unit sent sufficient documentation to show that he has a mission to travel between Phnom Penh and Ratanakkiri and between Phnom Penh and Battambang,” Mr. Saram said.

Brigadier General Chet Mann, the commander of Battalion 21, based in Kompong Cham prov­ince, confirmed Col. Thoeun’s special assignment.

“The mission letter was issued by my boss for him to work as a driver and also to provide protection,” he said.

Ratanakkiri military police chief Kim Rasmey, who questioned Col. Thoeun on Monday morning before sending him to the provincial court, said Col. Thoeun had been working as a driver for the owner of DM Group.

“Mr. Thoeun works as a driver for the okhna of the DM Group,” he said, only giving his name as Mr. Samnang.

Contact information for Mr. Samnang was not available and a spokesman for the DM Group, Ven Vibol, could not be reached.

The DM Group has been involved in various land disputes with villagers in the province for several years.

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